Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Ore., 515 U.S. 687, 4 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA or Act), 87 Stat. 884, 16 U. S. C. 1531 (1988 ed. and Supp. V), contains a variety of protections designed to save from extinction species that the Secretary of the Interior designates as endangered or threatened. Section 9 of the Act makes it unlawful for any person to "take" any endangered or threatened species. The Secretary has promulgated a regulation that defines the statute's prohibition on takings to include "significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife." This case presents the question whether the Secretary exceeded his authority under the Act by promulgating that regulation.


Section 9(a)(1) of the Act provides the following protection for endangered species: 1

"Except as provided in sections 1535(g)(2) and 1539 of this title, with respect to any endangered species of fish or wildlife listed pursuant to section 1533 of this title it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to—

. . . . .

W. Birmingham, and Stuart L. Somach; for the Washington Legal Foundation et al. by Albert Gidari, Daniel J. Popeo, and Paul D. Kamenar; and for Congressman Bill Baker et al. by Virginia S. Albrecht.

Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the Nationwide Public Projects Coalition et al. by Lawrence R. Liebesman, Kenneth S. Kamlet, and Duane J. Desiderio; and for the Navajo Nation et al. by Scott B. McElroy, Lester K. Taylor, Daniel H. Israel, and Stanley Pollack.

1 The Act defines the term "endangered species" to mean "any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range other than a species of the Class Insecta determined by the Secretary to constitute a pest whose protection under the provisions of this chapter would present an overwhelming and overriding risk to man." 16 U. S. C. 1532(6).

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